Directed by: Nick Hamm
Starring: Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt, Freddie Highmore, Toby Stephens and Ian McElhinney
Run Time: 1h 34min
3 ½ Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
This is an incredibly fascinating film. It’s about the past without showing too much of it visually. Their past is that the Catholics want Northern Ireland to be independent of England and the Protestants approve of England ruling over them. The war that has been going on has caused many deaths due to bullets flying by and bombs going off. Even children aren’t immune to the carnage. Times have changed and the new Prime Minister of England Tony Blair (Stephens), wants to work to end this fight once and for all.
The Journey stars Colm Meaney, as former Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader, Martin McGuinness, who plays the role of the Protestant. Meaney has worked in the film business since 1981 and in television before and since. He has 117 acting credits which is quite a feat. You’ve seen him in such films as The Dead, Far and Away, The last of the Mohicans and Layer Cake among others. The man opposite him, playing the profoundly conservative British loyalist or Catholic, Ian Paisley, is Timothy Spall. Spall started work in the entertainment business at virtually the same time as Meaney. He has a few more credits than Meaney has though you may recognize him most for his work as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter franchise. He has worked in films such as The Missionary, Love’s Labour’s Lost, A Series of Unfortunate Events and did voice work in Chicken Run and Alice Through the Looking Glass to name a few.
These two people primarily carry the entire film without dropping character once. The Journey is a story of two strong-headed men who have been keeping a civil war going on now for almost forty years.
When they were younger, they were called as The Troubles; now they are referred to as politicians. It’s 2006 and time to engage in what comes to be known as the Northern Ireland peace talks. Maybe this war for Northern Ireland can end and if so, these two men are a big part of making that happen smoothly; if it can happen at all. Getting them in the same room together is hard enough but, ‘talking’, as well?!? That’s a ludicrous notion but it’s worth a try. These two could continue a war or end it with just a simple handshake. What happens once they’re in the limo together, however, is quite riveting indeed.
All of the performances in The Journey are outstanding but these two stood out because they were such a big part of the script. I’d guess that at least ¾ of the film is just these two talking but don’t let this scare you away. They’re so good that the dialogue they speak, how they’re delivering it and the information they’re serving you will have you feeling as if you had just been in an entertaining lecture. It was mastery the way the story of these two men unfolded and I’m here to be a voice for a film that I might not have noticed by just the title. I don’t want you to miss it. Don’t be frightened by the fact that they are alone most of the excursion. They’re absorbing and move everything forward with skill and precision. I’m not certain, had the roles gone to other actors that it would have turned out as good, to be honest.
Looking at the work they’ve done in the past might give you a sense of how good they are in this and thusly how good the movie will be. If you like history, as I do, I’ll ask you to trust me about this and be sure not to miss this well-crafted gem. Some history buffs may not appreciate exactly how the two characters get together because they weren’t going for historical accuracy but that aside, how their relationship unfolds is of little consequence when put next to the larger picture of the ultimate prize. I don’t want to say what happens in the end in case you don’t know but do watch the credits for pictures of the real Martin and Ian.